How to clean a rug and make it look brand new

Rug in living room
Rug in living room (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Rugs are a great feature to add warmth, color and character to any room. This is often the case if you have hardwood flooring, and want to provide soft places to sit, or for children to play games on.

But just like carpets, rugs are prone to picking up dirt, dust or stains on a daily basis. That’s why it’s important to know how to clean a rug and make it look brand new.

Since rugs come in all types of materials, shapes and sizes, it can often be tricky to know how to clean a rug without ruining it. Luckily, there is a simple way of cleaning rugs with care, that will keep them fresh and in top condition. Best of all, you won’t have to spend a fortune on cleaning products, as you can easily use items found in the kitchen cupboard. So if you want a spotless rug, follow these top tips on how to clean a rug and make it look brand new. 

If your carpets are looking worse for wear, here's how to clean carpets with or without a carpet cleaner. Or you can always rent or buy a carpet cleaner if all else fails too. If you have stains on leather items, check out how to clean leather to restore its shine.  

How to clean a rug  

Before you start, always check your rug's care label to see if it should be hand-washed, dry-cleaned or only spot-cleaned. 

1.  Vacuum the rug 

Vacuum cleaning white rug

Vacuum cleaning white rug (Image credit: Shutterstock)

First, vacuum the rug thoroughly with one of the best vacuum cleaners. Use this to remove loose dirt, dust, crumbs or any other debris on the surface area. It's also advisable to thoroughly vacuum underneath the rug too, as this hides a lot of dust and dirt. 

2. Take the rug outdoors

Rugs hanging outside

Rugs hanging outside (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you have an outdoor space, unroll it and prop the rug up on a fence or railing for support. Using a broom or large handle, hit the sides of the rug to get rid of excess dirt. Repeat this until you stop seeing  any clouds of dust emerge from the rug. Bear in mind, if your rug has a latex backing, excessive hitting may damage the latex. 

3. Mix your cleaning solution  

Soapy water in a bucket with yellow cloth being wrung out

Soapy water in a bucket with yellow cloth being wrung out (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you want to make your own DIY cleaning product, simply mix two capfuls of mild liquid dish soap to a bucket of warm water. Avoid using hot water as this may fade or even damage the fibers. Remember to always test the solution on a small area of the rug first to make sure it doesn’t stain or ruin the surface. 

4. Work the cleaner into the rug thoroughly 

Spraying white rug

Spraying white rug (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Next, lay your rug down on a deck or on top of a tarp on the floor. Before cleaning your entire rug, spot-test the solution in a small area of the rug first, to make sure the colors don’t bleed. Then, using a sponge or soft bristle brush, gently work the solution deep into the rug until you start to see suds. An easy way to do this is to visualise the rug into four sections, and scrub each section well before moving to the next.

TIP: If you see that the colors do bleed from a spot-test, it’s best to take the rug to a dry cleaner.   

5. Let the solution sit before rinsing off 

Rinsing rug clean with a hose

Rinsing rug clean with a hose (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Then, leave the solution to sit on the rug for about five minutes and allow it to get to work, before rinsing off with a hose or bucket of clean water.  You want to ensure you thoroughly wash away any grime or soap residue. Alternatively, you can use a carpet shampoo for your rug, but always follow the directions on the label. To treat stains, we can recommend Dr. Beckmann Carpet Stain remover ($11 (opens in new tab), Amazon (opens in new tab)), for a spotless rug.  

6. Allow rug to air dry 

Blue rug in middle of living room floor

Blue rug in middle of living room floor (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Then, use a towel to soak up the excess water  before hanging up to air-dry outdoors. If you don’t have an outdoor space, leave it to dry in the laundry room, garage or basement. Bear in mind, this could take up to 24 hours or more, so always wait for it to dry completely before putting it back on the floor.  

Other types of rugs

Brown jute rug

Brown jute rug (Image credit: Shutterstock)

For jute, sisal, and bamboo rugs, avoid washing with water as this will will only weaken and destroy the fibers. Instead, vacuum the top, bottom and underside of the rug to keep it clean. If you do find stains however, simply use a homemade solution of laundry detergent and warm water. Carefully blot out the stain with a microfiber cloth before rinsing clean. Then dry with a cloth and leave to air-dry. 

Also, if you have a large area or antique rug, it’s advisable to seek advice from a professional rug cleaning service to ensure it’s cleaned properly. 

How to remove stains from a rug 

Red wine spilled on carpet

Red wine spilled on carpet (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you have unsightly stains such as dreaded red wine spills on your white rug, don’t panic. Simply mix a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar, place in a bowl and dip a sponge into it for spot-treating. Alternatively, you can pour into a spray bottle for easy application. Allow the mixture to sit on the surface for a few minutes before dabbing the spot clean with a clean towel or dishcloth. 

How to remove odors from a rug 

Lemons and baking soda

Lemons and baking soda (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If your rug starts to have a bad odor from spills, food or pets, sprinkle a layer of  baking soda on top of your rug. Let it sit for fifteen minutes before vacuuming it up. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that eliminates unpleasant smells, and gets rid of stains. For more top tips, check out what makes baking soda and vinegar so good at cleaning around the home. 


Got more than just wine stains to remove? Well, here's how to remove oil stains from clothes without ruining them. And learn how to clean a leather couch to remove everyday stains. Also take a look at the 11 things you didn't know you could clean with toothpaste

Cynthia Lawrence
Homes Writer

Cynthia Lawrence specialises in Homes ecommerce, covering all things homes and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 


Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.


With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!